Two expansions in less than a year were nothing short of divine for Bowerman Blueberries in Holland.
Owners of the more than 90-acre blueberry farm, which began in 1954, had already started work to double the size of their on-site bakery and farm store in early 2021.
But soon, after being approached with an idea, they sensed even more work was in store for 2021: developing a restaurant in downtown Holland.
That idea was scary, especially during a global pandemic. So, co-owners Andrew VanTil, Kassie Grasmanis and Tom Parker came together to seek answers from above.
“We prayed on it and this came available,” Parker said from a table in their sparkling new restaurant, Bowerman’s on 8th, located at 2 E. Eighth St. “Things just lined up. We had to take a chance.”
And from the looks of its soft opening in early February 2022, the risk is paying off.
First of its kind
When I walked though the front door on a cold Wednesday morning, I was surprised how open, bright and inviting the space was. The cafe was full of diners. It felt like the perfect escape from the wind and the snow outside. The calm instrumental music in the background offered a wonderful backdrop to the whole experience as well.
To the right is the seating, which offers generous views of downtown Holland. In front is the retail goods section. Finally, to the left is the bakery area with a huge display case of treats, including Bowerman’s signature blueberry doughnuts.
Parker said they combined two spaces — the former Alpenrose Restaurant bakery and the former Sandcastle for Kids toy store — into one space. The choice of wood, lights and antiques all blend into an upscale-barn feel inspired by Magnolia, the Chip and Joanna Gaines experience in Waco, Texas.
Not only that, it’s unique, too. The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC), a federal agriculture research and promotion program, worked with Bowerman’s on 8th to incorporate blueberries into dishes people don’t normally think about.
“We are the first blueberry-themed restaurant that they know about in the country,” Parker said. “It was nice to have them as a tool.”
For now, the restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch.
Parker said signature items on the breakfast menu include Pig in a Pocket, a twist on the traditional pig in the blanket. It features breakfast sausage wrapped in a flaky, all-butter pie crust, served with gravy and blueberry rosemary coulis, which is a thin sauce. He also enjoys the Buttermilk Pancakes — three blueberry pancakes with almond drizzle and candied citrus peel.
On the lunch side, Parker highlights the Blueberry Smoked Brisket, 5 ounces of brisket with blueberry slaw, horseradish aioli and blueberry barbecue sauce.
“Everything here I can vouch for because I ate it,” Parker said with a laugh.
Looking ahead, Bowerman’s on 8th may stay open later for dinner and drinks.
“First we want to master breakfast and lunch,” he said.
Parker said falling prices for blueberries and rising costs at the farm make blueberry farming extra challenging right now. But thanks to the expansion of the market and the opening of the downtown restaurant, Bowerman Blueberries can serve local blueberry lovers for years to come.
“It’s a way to sell more blueberries to consumers and keep our farm in operation,” he said.